Although the reading plan only took us 10 weeks, it seems I’m stretching it out a little further with review. We’re almost finished as we now look back to week nine, The Body of Christ.
God had chosen for himself a people a long time ago and there were always particular traits for that community. There were themes and practices and boundaries. But in the history of God’s people certain events would shake the foundation of the community and alter its makeup.
God chooses Abraham and gives him a great number of descendants whose names were synonymous with their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When God frees the people from slavery in Egypt the people reconstitute themselves to a certain degree around the practice of Passover, always remembering that their God is the God of the Exodus. When Moses receives the law it organizes the people differently giving them new practices and understandings of how to relate to God. The twelves tribes look one way in the time of wandering and another when they settle in the promised land. There is another shift when Israel becomes a kingdom, when the temple is built, when they are in exile, and when they return.
If those events determined new ways for the people of God to exist, then there is no doubt that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ would be nothing less than transformative. God came to earth and revealed himself most perfectly in Jesus Christ, his son. If the church believes this then everything is different. The people of God need to look to Jesus to find its foundations for all practices. To build upon anything else would be folly.
As we read the letters of the New Testament you see this concern about the basic question, “How do we live now in light of Jesus?” People question old covenant practices. They wonder about pagan practices. What does this mean for Jews and Gentiles? How does Jesus’ life come to bear upon my relationships?
People like Paul seek to draw their attention in all his answers to Jesus, pushing for the nature and character of the church to correspond to Christ. The church should be a place of humility, seeking others needs above our own. And why does Paul say this in Philippians 2? Because of Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who instead of pride humbled himself even to the point of death on the cross. The church should be a place of love because Christ has loved us, even while we were enemies! The church should join in the work and rule of the kingdom, for Christ is our king and he is reigning now.
It is challenging to know the church should seek to be Christ-like because his life on this earth led to the cross. Likewise the church should be a people willing to suffer and sacrifice, just as Jesus Christ did for us all. Not just as individuals but as worshipping communities we need to be able to heed the call of Jesus Christ, pick up our cross, and follow him.
As it was the question during the time of the New Testament, it should still be the question today. How do we live in light of Jesus Christ? Are our churches living out his mission? Are we doing those things he calls us to do? Are we willing to suffer? Do we seek, like Paul, to point others to Jesus at every opportunity? Or do we answer the questions of how to do church apart from the life and work of Jesus Christ? Thankfully these New Testament books and letters offer us guidance today by the Holy Spirit just as they did thousands of years ago. We needed it then and we still need it today as our default seems to be a subtle drift away from Jesus’ mission and character. We always need to turn to God’s word to be called back to faithful ministry done in the name of Jesus Christ.